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Getting Loud with Karena Dawn

The Tone It Up co-founder on using her voice for The Big Silence

Karena Dawn earned a platform and success as co-founder of Tone It Up, a ‘wellness movement’ comprised of online workouts, nutrition products, meditations and more. Although still an active fitness trainer, these days Karena, who lives in Austin with her husband and their six Pomeranians, spends most of her energy on The Big Silence, a non-profit encouraging the normalization of talking about mental health. She has a book and podcast of the same name and hosts local events and experiences, a couple of which are available to bid on through early January to benefit the #NotAloneChallenge, a challenge she’s spearheading with musician Jewel and others to raise money for The Big Silence and Jewel’s Inspiring Children Foundation.

Why do you think it’s so important for people to break their silence and share mental health struggles? I know from my own personal experiences when you share experiences you think you’ll be judged on or ridiculed by or you’re ashamed of, when you speak up and use your voice and you share, community comes together and you realize you’re not alone. That realization you’re not alone and that we’re all the same in certain ways is a part of healing trauma. That’s why I started The Big Silence, the silence is the things we don’t talk about, but The Big Silence is here to make some noise.

How has being open about your own challenges helped you?

It’s been healing to the trauma of growing up with a mother with paranoid schizophrenia who suffered from depression until she passed in 2021. The Big Silence is dedicated to her. And, growing up in the 90s, no one was talking about mental health, which then in my own mind I didn’t want to speak about it because I felt shame that this was going on in my family, so sharing and having a voice and community come together is one of the big things.

What are some things you do for self-care?

Number one, I give myself permission for self-care, because so often we get trapped in that mentality of get up and go and work,, but you’re not fulfilled until you fill your own cup. So, self-care to me and for me is I wake up, I like to make hot lemon water and honey, I like to meditate and read a few pages in a book. I like to move my body. I’m a fitness trainer and founder of Tone It Up, but at the same time, I sometimes struggle with motivation. But, if I can just get myself to walk into the gym and sit there and commit to just doing it for 10 minutes and then get a full workout in, I feel so much better. Other than that, if it’s a special day I love to infrared sauna, red light therapy and I love a good cold plunge.

How can people in Austin support and or get involved with The Big Silence? They can support our programs, sign up for our newsletter, share The Big Silence text line by texting HERO to 741741 and just share the message. We have some events coming up so you can go to our event page and see how to support through events and other experiences.

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